On the 47th Annual Earth Day on April 22, 2017, New York Restoration Project (NYRP) and young people from the Student Conservation Association (SCA), in its 60th year, teamed up in Riverbank State Park in Manhattan to help “ConSERVE” New York City. Together they gave away 250 native trees—like tulip poplar, serviceberry, and black tupelo—to NYC residents. Seven hundred volunteers came out to give away trees, make native seed balls to be planted throughout the city, make recycled seed starters, conduct field research, and paint and assemble boards for park benches.
Can you tell us about your childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in urban forestry?
Navé Strauss: I grew up in suburban Long Island with a father who is an arborist. My parents are both strong advocates of being outside and enjoying nature, and my father’s profession supplemented my relationship with the outdoors, peppering it with knowledge of trees and insects by default. I never thought I would end up an arborist, and didn’t know I’d be leading an incredible tree planting program in my home city, but here I am and I’m extremely humbled by the opportunity to serve and share my experience, just as my father did and does with me.
Please tell us about your educational and career trajectories.
NS: I graduated from St Lawrence University in Canton NY in 2008 with a Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies and an emphasis in Forestry. I started as a forester with NYC Parks soon thereafter in early 2009 and have continued my trajectory ever since, becoming a senior forester in 2014 and then director of the street tree planting program as of April 2016.
What do you enjoy so far about your current position? What are some challenges?
NS: I love the challenges themselves—the juxtaposition between the natural and built environs and the cultural diversity of the City that leads to many good conversations with residents who are passionate about trees—or about not having trees. In all, I enjoy the complexity of the tasks at hand, how they fold into our mission, and navigating the ship while learning from my superiors, peers, and staff.
What are a few things people might be surprised to know about street tree planting in NYC?
NS: We plant over 150 unique cultivars of trees in our public rights-of-way on an annual basis! That is an insane number, and we are extremely proud of our accomplishments in helping to diversify the City’s urban forest.
What is your ultimate vision for the NYC street tree planting program?
NS: To continue the upward arch of being the best street tree planting program in the world and to assure each and every New Yorker that every tree being planted is done so with every consideration in mind, even the ones they haven’t thought of (leave that to us). Finally, to know that each tree is set up to survive and thrive after our two-year establishment period has ended.
What are your interests in your free time?
NS: Cooking, reading, spending time with my loved ones, and playing guitar. I have many guitars, and I recognize that it’s a problem, but I am not ready to stop collecting.
Anything else you want to be sure to share?
NS: Talking to New Yorkers about the best slice of pizza is risky business—be prepared to hunker down and listen. Is it the sauce, the dough, the cheese, or the toppings? Many differ, even those who agree on politics.
Please tell us about childhood influences that may have foreshadowed your career.
Shawn Spencer: I was born in upstate New York but grew up in the Tidewater region of Virginia. Our neighborhood had lots of trees in it and backed up to fallow farmland that was being overrun with pioneer trees. My parents were big into landscaping, so we maintained many different trees on our yard. I climbed in them, raked the leaves and needles, and helped prune them. Mom was a nurse and Dad an electrical engineer; neither sat behind a desk for work, and I knew I didn’t want to, either. I started taking all the science and biology classes I could take in junior and senior high school. I was also very active with my Cub Scout Pack and Boy Scout Troop, earning nearly all of the Natural Resource-based merit badges and doing all sorts of environmental/conservation service projects. I was good with a double bit axe and could start a fire in a Virginia rainstorm but was equally good with a shovel to plant more trees and shrubs.
Using data from the TreesCount! 2015 inventory, NYC Parks brings us the interactive New York City Street Tree Map, the world’s most extensive, accurate, and detailed tree map. With the Map, anyone can access data about any street tree in the City.
Users can learn about the inventory as a whole, including its quantifiable ecological benefits and predominant species, they can mark trees as favorites and share them with friends, and they can record their tree stewardship activities. They can find out ecological benefits of each individual tree; for instance, the Japanese pagoda tree at 213 E 73rd Street, provides the following benefits.
CityLab, from The Atlantic, published a nice article about the project. Author Laura Bliss reports that “For more than a year, some 2,300 volunteers helped park officials survey more than 685,000 street trees across all five boroughs, gathering stats on species, bark health, trunk width, latitude and longitude, and—this was new—GPS coordinates for every one.”
The interactive New York City Street Tree Map that was created from that data is a marvel. It will surely inspire more of its kind.
Over 200 NYC middle school students, teachers, and guidance counselors enjoyed the 21st Green Horizons event on October 20th, 2016 in Central Park. New York City’s annual environmental and natural resources careers day continues to provide a free and hands-on experience for young people, working directly with professionals who volunteer their time to introduce careers they love.
Rotating around the five boroughs, Green Horizons is intensely collaborative, combining the strengths of governmental agencies at all levels, private corporations, and not-for-profit organizations. This year, the host organization was Central Park Conservancy; 20 stations were sited around the Harlem Meer in the northern part of the Park. Among the various offerings, students learned about urban forestry, arboriculture, horticulture, landscape planning, geology, meteorology, entomology, wetlands management, and water quality monitoring.
This story comes to us from Bronx River Alliance Deputy Director Maggie Greenfield and Natural Areas Conservancy Communications and Public Outreach Manager Nicole Brownstein.
The Bronx River has seen its fair share of history. It was first called the Aquehung, or “River of High Bluffs” by the local Native Americans. Two tribes, the Weckquaesgeek and Siwanoy, drank the river’s water, fished along its banks, and hunted in the surrounding woods. The river also held a spiritual significance for them and was a place for ritual baths each year. Jonas Bronck arrived in 1639, brokered a deal with the Native Americans for 500 acres along the river, and turned it into farmland.
Mills sprang up along the river, harnessing its energy and using it as a natural flowing sewer system. As the manufacturing industry fell into decline and the mills began to disappear, the river remained a dumping site for the surrounding communities. This was before we fully knew or cared about the effects of industrial and residential waste dumping.
It wasn’t until the environmental movement picked up in the mid-1970s that the restoration process began along the 23-mile river. In the late 1990s, the Bronx River Working Group was founded, with more than 60 community organizations and businesses combining efforts to orchestrate work along the river. The spirit of this effort led to the creation of the Bronx River Alliance, a group dedicated to restoring the waterway. When they began their work, these activists found objects as bizarre as refrigerators, tires, and even a wine press in the river. Today the river’s health is returning, evidenced by the long-awaited appearance of river herring, American eel, eastern oyster, and beavers. But our work is not yet done.
Due to spring holidays, schools in New York City adopted May 6th as NYC Arbor Day. On that Friday last spring, most of the 59 participating schools planted their trees, which included flowering dogwoods, redbuds, wild cherries, maples, Colorado spruces, red oaks, black walnuts, river birches, honey locusts and black pines. Also planting were Urban Park Rangers at Inwood Hill Park, which is part of NYC Parks & Recreation.
The total number of trees planted was 234, which had been grown to size and carefully tended by students and teachers at John Bowne High School in Flushing, Queens. Students at Bowne participate in the Plant Science and Animal Science programs at this high school. The tree nursery is part of a small farm that is also home to animals, greenhouses, an orchard, and vegetable planting beds.
by Michelle Sutton
The 2016 Atlantic Ocean hurricane season officially began June 1, with meteorologists offering varying opinions about how much activity we in the eastern U.S. will see. Hurricane Sandy (October 2012) savaged tree populations with both high winds and flooding. Sandy brought one storm surge of salt water that retreated with the same day’s tides. What were some of the impacts and lessons learned? We hear from a veteran arborist on Long Island and from a former NYC urban forester.
What are the major reasons flooding is so punishing for trees? Dr. Kamran Abdollahi, professor of forest ecophysiology in the urban forestry program at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, explains that flooding fills soil pores, denying tree roots access to the oxygen they need for respiration and water and nutrient uptake. Dr. Abdollahi says, “In the urban environment where soils are already compacted by human activities, flooding exacerbates compaction and its negative effects. Flooding can also negatively affect root anchoring and tree stability.”
Arborist Joel Greifenberger is the owner of Valley Tree and Landscape in Long Beach, Long Island. Valley has planted more than 25,000 trees for NYC in over 25 years. Greifenberger says that on Long Beach, Hurricane Sandy brought several feet of salt water on land, “bay to ocean,” for about 12 hours. That brief flooding event left dramatic damage to the region’s trees, with some surprising victims.
by Charles Cochran, Street Tree Census Coordinator and Ben Greer, TreesCount!2015 Assistant Coordinator, NYC Parks and Recreation
~Infographic by Peter Tiso and Annie Weinmayr
~Photos Courtesy of NYC Parks
TreesCount! 2015 is the third decadal inventory of NYC’s street trees. This is the first tree census to use volunteer citizen scientists to be the primary data collectors. Individuals who have mapped went through a full training process with NYC Parks Census staff, mapped in “events” with other volunteers or mapped independently. Community partners ranging from environmental non-profits, business improvement districts, youth groups and community boards have also played a key role in training and engaging volunteers to map their neighborhoods. Volunteers have mapped 200,000 trees, 30% of the city, since May 2015.
Kristy King is the Director of Forest Restoration for the Natural Resources Group of NYC Parks. Here we get to know Kristy and the work that her department does to bring degraded land back to life in the surprisingly diverse range of natural areas of New York City.
Can you tell us about your childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in forest restoration work?
Kristy King: I’ve always been interested in biology and used to explore the woods and streams behind my house in Columbia, SC. I can’t say that I was on track to work in forest restoration from a young age, but I’ve always been fascinated by the outdoors and felt that nature is an important part of the human experience. When studying biology in high school, ecology fascinated me the most due to the profound interconnectedness of life and the environment. I was so blown away by the complexity of it all and knew I wanted to dig deeper.
Can you tell us about your educational and career trajectory?
King: I studied Biology (focus on botany and ecology) at the College of Charleston in South Carolina and graduated in 2003. At that point I felt unsure about my trajectory and worked for some months as a florist and a field assistant performing vegetation surveys in the cypress swamps of Francis Marion National Forest, north of Charleston.
I then scored an entry level job with NOAA/National Ocean Service as a marine biologist (basically a lab technician) studying the ecological impacts of harmful algal blooms. I did that for three years and while it was very cool, I didn’t feel personally invested in the field and didn’t want to work as a laboratory scientist for my entire career.
I started independently exploring subfields in ecology and was quite taken by urban ecology both because I personally wanted to live in a big city and because I felt excited about the potential impacts of performing science and management where so many people live!